Nail-biting affects about 60% of children and teenagers\u00a0and sometimes runs well into adulthood. If your child is nibbling their nails moderately, without injuring themselves, it may be a minor coping mechanism you can easily help them wean away from. Perhaps they do it while watching their favourite show, or out of boredom. Sometimes you may notice where there is a spike in their emotions, the nail-biting follows suit. Other times you may notice the following symptoms: When It Happens Just too Often This becomes especially apparent in times of intense focus or anxiety where nail-biting serves as a sort of grounding technique or relaxant. There could be also underlying psychological reasons such as OCD, ADHD and many others which you may want to address with a child psychologist if it becomes more discerning, which brings us to our next point: When Their Nails Are Damaged Long-term nail biters children may suffer from abrasions, tearing and even infection to the surrounding skin of the nails. Some nails may even grow deformed, unshapely, or ingrown. When They Fall Ill The act of nail-biting puts anyone's health at risk. For one thing, the under nail is a breeding ground for a bacteria known as enterobacteriaceae. This is responsible for gastro-intestinal infections causing stomach aches and diarrhoea. If you notice your nail-biting child suddenly crippling over abdominal pains and such, you may want to pay a visit to your paediatrician- and then, with a deep breath, address the nail-biting! How to Help Your Toddler Stop Nail-Biting Image credit: iStock It is always a cause for concern when nail-biting affects your child negatively but remember, breaking any form of habit takes time! As the matter of fact, an average adult generally takes 21 days to chip off a habit\u2014so don't be afraid to loosen up and cut your little one some slack. #1 Communication is Key! Image credit: iStock Before telling them to stop biting their nails, firstly help them understand why they shouldn't. Essentially, you are convincing them the importance of stopping this habit and why it's worth the effort to stop. Take time to explain to them why they should pay attention to hygiene and cleanliness and how biting their nails could lead to stomach aches. This helps them be more conscious of their habit and provides an opportunity for them to discuss what kind of help they would need from you. For example, some children could use help being reminded of their accidental tendencies or habits. Spend some time deliberating limits to your child's nail-biting habit, like situations where they should fight the urge\u2014for example, at the dinner table or during conversations. #2 Identify Their Triggers Image credit: sbcc Some experts denote habit as a repetitive behaviour exhibited by your child without their realisation. Three main reasons behind a habit are: \t \t \tOut of boredom \tAs a relaxant \tRelief as a response to stress Identifying what triggers your child to bite their nails puts you at a great advantage. It sets your expectations and the level of concern you ought to be giving to the matter at hand.\u00a0This enables you to better decide on the appropriate measures to take and how to better manage their distresses. #3 Offer Substitutes and Munchies Image credit: iStock Habits become addictive most especially when your child finds it therapeutic and a means to calm their nerves. Replacing their bad habit of nail-biting with healthier alternatives can nurture and educate your child to manage their urge in a healthier way. Often times, as they work towards minimising their biting, you will notice your child growing increasingly fidgety. Offering them substitutes exposes them to better coping mechanics towards their stress and anxieties. Some of these measures include: \t \t \tOffering them edibles to chew or munch on such as raisin, nuts or other forms of munchable snacks. \tWhen spotting them about to gnaw away, suggest them to twiddle their thumbs or wiggle their fingers. \tIntroduce Silly-Putty (also known as slime), clay or stress balls for them to channel their jitteriness through fun ways! #4 Stick to Your Routines Image credit: Canva One way to go about this is to sit down with your child and discuss fixed routines that will best cater to their weaning needs. Set a day and time of the week to cut their nails to ensure they never grow longer than supposed to. Keeping their nails short will boost their overall hygiene and reduce the chances of your child gnawing away at their nails and potentially swelling them! Decide on a routine like dedicating an hour or any preferred time in a day where your child explores other healthier habits they find equally satisfying\u2014like playing with clay, Silly Slime, and so forth. #5 Build A More Accommodating Environment Image credit: Canva Now that you are more informed about what triggers your child to bite their nails, you can decide on the kind of tone and ambience you prefer to channel in your home. The best environment will always be one where a child's parent is ever-ready to come to their aid with guidance and moral support! Acknowledge their efforts, fuel them with encouragements and reward them for stronger motivation. If you notice their home surrounding evokes a sense of fear or anxiety, converse with them to better understand the extent of their unease and offer closure and comfort when necessary. #6 Consider Child Therapy Image credit: Canva In rare but extreme cases of nail-biting, a professional opinion will go a long way. As mentioned earlier, there could be many underlying psychological causes to a child's nail-biting. In the case of debilitating anxiety, a child psychiatrist will help both you and your child kick this habit in the most feasible ways while potentially unravelling other symptoms that may have otherwise gone unchecked. No parent wants to be a source of distress or anxiety to their child It might be tempting to chide or reprimand them at their unsightly nail-biting but a progressive alternative is to adopt a more tolerant and encouraging approach. Instead, gently remind your little one (and yourself) that there is always a way to break bad habits and sometimes all you need is a little more time and patience to nail it! For more insightful stories and fun recipes, stay tuned to Motherhood Story!